The best MacBook for students 2022: all Apple's laptop options explained

Wondering what the best student MacBook is? Wonder no longer

Welcome to the best MacBook for students, written specifically for those studying and looking for an ideal Mac laptop. If you're getting ready for back-to-school season and you're thinking of buying a new MacBook, this guide will help you choose the best one for you.

Apple definitely makes some of the best student laptops (opens in new tab) on the market, which double as some of the best lightweight laptops (opens in new tab) – something that students will always appreciate as you're dragging your laptop to and from classrooms. If you're headed back to school, college or university, a MacBook might sound like an expensive choice but it's guaranteed to get you through your next study years and beyond. They can tackle almost any task you throw at it, including taking seminar notes, watching back lectures, video calling your family and surfing the web.

In this guide, we'll explain how factors such as screen and processor choice should influence a students' purchasing decision, and we'll also guide you towards the current lowest prices on these machines (also of note are our dedicated guides to the best cheap MacBook Air deals (opens in new tab) and best cheap MacBook Pro deals (opens in new tab)). But make sure you read the student discount section at the bottom of page, because Apple also awards money-off for student purchases.

If you're shopping more generally, check out our comprehensive list of the best MacBooks (opens in new tab) – and don't forget our guide to the best monitors for MacBook Pro (opens in new tab) if you'll need a bigger screen when at your desk, and our guide to the best external hard drives for Mac (opens in new tab) for backing up your work safely.

The best MacBooks for students 2022: The top 3

We think the best MacBook for most students is the M1 MacBook Air (2020). It's older and a touch slower than the newer M2 version, but it still flies along – and it's the most affordable option on this list by far.

Our pick for the best premium MacBook for students is the M2 MacBook Air (2022). The newer Air model has an updated design, more power, and a 1080p webcam, but it's 25% pricier than the outgoing model too.  

The best pro-spec MacBook for students is the 14-inch MacBook Pro. This is a laptop that's absolutely packed with power, and even high-end 4K video editing projects aren't going to slow it down. It's pricier and less portable though.

MacBook Air 2020 M1 on T3 backgroundT3 Best Buy badge

(Image credit: Future)
The best MacBook for most students

Specifications

Screen size: 13.3 inches
Resolution: 2560 x 1600 pixels
Processor: M1 8-core
RAM: 8GB / 16GB
Storage: 256GB / 512GB / 1TB / 2TB
Connectivity: 2 x Thunderbolt / USB 4 ports (USB-C), 3.5 mm headphone jack
Webcam: 720p
Dimensions: 304.1 mm x 212.4 mm x 16.1 mm
Weight: 1.29 kg

Reasons to buy

+
Incredible power and speed
+
Thin and light
+
Silent, fanless design

Reasons to avoid

-
Only two USB-C ports
-
Not the best screen quality

It's now the older of the two MacBook Air models, but we still think the M1 MacBook Air launched in 2020 remains the best choice for the vast majority of students, which is down to one key factor – price.

The M1 chipset that Apple launched with this laptop was such a step forward in terms of power and efficiency that it'll still comfortably cope with everyday computing tasks for years to come. If you don't believe us, ask anyone who already owns one of these machines.

It can handle 4K video editing, complex music production, raw photo editing and so on, with 8GB of RAM as standard (creative students should opt for 16GB). It packs all this power into a very thin, fan-less design, which means it's perfect for the library. And, like all Apple laptops, it has huge battery life – around 15 hours in typical web browsing use.

The downsides to the MacBook Air are that the screen isn't as good as the MacBook Pro for creative work, it only has two USB-C ports (and a 3.5mm audio jack) as its total connectivity, and there's now a more expensive M2 version of this laptop available. However, for a lot of people those won't be major issues.

Apple MacBook Air M2 2022 reviewT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: Future / Mike Lowe)
The best premium MacBook for students

Specifications

Screen size: 13.6 inches
Resolution: 2560 x 1664 pixels
Processor: Up to M2 8-core
RAM: 8GB / 16GB / 24GB
Storage: 256GB / 512GB / 1TB / 2TB
Connectivity: 2 x Thunderbolt / USB 4 ports (USB-C), 3.5 mm headphone jack
Camera: 1080p
Dimensions: 304.1 mm x 215 mm x 11.3 mm
Weight: 1.24 kg

Reasons to buy

+
The new M2 silicon
+
Amazingly thin and light
+
New Midnight colour

Reasons to avoid

-
Costs more than the M1
-
Doesn't have the Pro battery life

For a large chunk of people this is going to be the best Apple MacBook for their student life: it's lightweight, it's relatively affordable, and it looks fantastic. However, it's a lot pricier than the 2020 Air, which is why we consider this a more premium purchase option right now. 

We're pleased to see that the webcam has been given an upgrade to 1080p, which is important to more people than you might think, and it's clear that macOS absolutely flies along on this Mac. If you don't do much beyond everyday computing tasks, we'd wholeheartedly recommend it, but even if you do then 4K video editing is no problem – just not to the same level as the fan-assisted cooling of the MacBook Pro options (the Air is fanless and therefore silent, but also hotter and Apple throttles it somewhat too).

The M2 MacBook Air is cheaper than the Pro models, hence it making great sense for students still, but you do miss out on some features: there's no HDMI slot and no SDXC card reader, for example. However, everything considered it's a phenomenal product that will be a great daily driver if you don't need the utmost power for, say, engineering modelling projects. 

MacBook Pro 14-inch 2021T3 Approved badge

(Image credit: Future)
The best pro-spec MacBook for students

Specifications

Screen size: 14.2 inches
Resolution: 3024 x 1964 pixels
Processor: Up to M1 Pro 10-core or M1 Max 10-core
RAM: 16GB / 32GB / 64GB
Storage: 512GB / 1TB / 2TB / 4TB / 8TB
Connectivity: 3 x Thunderbolt / USB 4 ports (USB-C), 1 x HDMI, SDXC card slot, 3.5 mm headphone jack
Camera: 1080p
Dimensions: 312.6 mm x 221.2 mm x 15.5 mm
Weight: 1.6 kg

Reasons to buy

+
Top-tier performance
+
Quality design
+
Excellent display

Reasons to avoid

-
The display notch is an acquired taste
-
On the more expensive side

The 14-inch MacBook Pro offers a huge number of positives for students looking for a MacBook: it's packed with power, it has a superb display, the battery will run and run, and then there's the stylish and compact design. If you buy one of these, you won't be disappointed. 

Perhaps the only downside really is that this Pro model will cost you a substantial amount of money, but if you think about it as an investment then it's still good value – this is a laptop that will last you a long time. Even the smaller touches are clever ones, including the removal of the Touch Bar (that's still in the 13-inch model) and the upgraded webcam that now features 1080p quality.

The larger size of this laptop compared with the MacBook Air means it offers plenty of ports and connection options for all your peripherals, but at the same time it's not going to weigh your bag down excessively. It's just about the best laptop that Apple has ever made, and it's very customisable too. If you need even more power, however, then the 16-inch model is more customisable – but even pricier still. 

The best MacBooks for students 2022: The best of the rest

MacBook Pro M2 2022 reviewT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: Future / Mike Lowe)
The best premium MacBook for students

Specifications

Screen size: 13.3 inches
Resolution: 2560 x 1600 pixels
Processor: Up to M2 8-core
RAM: 8GB / 16GB / 32GB
Storage: 256GB / 512GB / 1TB / 2TB
Connectivity: 2 x Thunderbolt / USB 4 ports (USB-C), 3.5 mm headphone jack
Camera: 720p
Dimensions: 304.1 mm x 212.4 mm x 15.6 mm
Weight: 1.4 kg

Reasons to buy

+
The most compact Pro
+
Apple's latest M2 chip
+
Lots of configuration options

Reasons to avoid

-
Not as much power
-
Fewer connection ports

The most recent MacBook Pro to launch is the 13.3-inch MacBook Pro powered by the latest M2 chipset from Apple, and it gives you an appealing option if you want a Pro-level of power but think the 14-inch and 16-inch models are a bit too unwieldy (and a bit too expensive, for that matter).

While this laptop can do more than the MacBook Air, as it's fan cooled, you don't get the higher-end configuration options that you do on the bigger Pro models (M1 Pro/Max is above M2 also being a point of note). However, you do get the Touch Bar touch interface, which has since been sacked off from all other MacBook models. 

Each MacBook Pro has a choice of configuration options to pick from, so it's a good idea to head over to the Apple website and try picking out some specs. That will give you the pricing for these various models and then you can decide which one might be the most suitable for you. 

If you need more CPU/GPU power on tap more often then this MacBook's fan cooling puts it a step above the MacBook Air options, while its fairer price sees it as a more logical buy than the 14-inch or 16-inch Pro models – unless you need a significant chunk of more power. 

MacBook Pro 2021 14 inch and 16 inch models side by sideT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: Future)
The best large-screen premium MacBook for students

Specifications

Screen size: 16.2 inches
Resolution: 3456 x 2234 pixels
Processor: Up to M1 Pro 10-core or M1 Max 10-core
RAM: 16GB / 32GB / 64GB
Storage: 512GB / 1TB / 2TB / 4TB / 8TB
Connectivity: 3 x Thunderbolt / USB 4 ports (USB-C), 1 x HDMI, SDXC card slot, 3.5 mm headphone jack
Camera: 1080p
Dimensions: 355.7 mm x 248.1 mm x 16.8 mm
Weight: 2.1 kg

Reasons to buy

+
Premium-level performance
+
Can't fault the design
+
Even more screen space

Reasons to avoid

-
The largest MacBook
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It's really going to cost you

And so to the 16-inch MacBook Pro (the bigger one in the picture above, but of course): in a lot of ways this is similar to the 14-inch model (also pictured), because you get the same choice of internal configuration options with the M1 Pro or M1 Max processor, the same 16GB, 32GB or 64GB of RAM (that last one is only with the M1 Max), and the storage choices that go up to 8TB. This is a phenomenally powerful computer that will do everything you need it to – except, perhaps, top-tier gaming.

The key difference is the extra two inches you get on the display, which means more pixels as well of course. It makes the laptop bigger, heavier and more expensive than the 14-inch equivalent, though perhaps not by as much as you might imagine. It's up to you whether you'd rather have a bigger screen or something more portable.

There is another advantage to the 16-inch MacBook Pro, and that's battery life: 21 hours on this model versus the 17 hours on the 14-inch edition. You can spend more time with it away from your desk, but then that's balanced out by the fact that it's a larger laptop to lug around from one place to another.

The extra size also means the speaker system has a bit more room to breath, though it's the same six speakers here as you get in the smaller model. As with the 14-inch MacBook Pro, this computer can get very expensive once you start ramping up the RAM and the storage and everything else. However, if you've got the budget for it, it's the biggest and the best MacBook that Apple makes right now.


Are MacBooks worth it for students?

Apple products have long had a reputation for being high-priced, and while they're certainly not cheap, they're also not overpriced – a PC laptop that's similarly thin and light while also offering high performance and specs would cost just as much, or often more.

However, there is a hidden cost to consider: most of Apple's current laptops only use USB-C ports, which means you often need to buy adapters to attach regular USB hard drives or accessories. So that's an extra purchase – you'll need to factor in another £30/$30 to £100/$100 depending on how many ports you want this adapter to have (though students will generally be fine with a basic one).

On the flip side, though, there's something that adds a huge amount of value to Apple's machines: they're extremely reliable and easy to get repaired if anything does go wrong. Apple is the only big laptop maker with widespread stores that all have a repair presence, where you can literally take the laptop in a talk to someone employed by the same people who made the machine. In terms of speeds of repairs and peace of mind when deadlines are looming, the importance of this can't be overstated.

Do students get discounts on MacBooks?

Yes they do! The exact level of discount depends on the model you choose, and it's not anything as simple as saying that it's 10% around the whole world – but Apple has a specific section of its online store for education buyers, so you can see what discounts you qualify for there when you look at the products.

You can also get 20% off AppleCare+ as a student, the extended three-year warranty that also includes accidental damage protection. For students, who can struggle to get genuinely good contents insurance that covers laptops when out of the house, this can be an excellent buy. It doesn't cover theft, though.

In the UK, even browsing the Apple Education store online requires you to prove that you're a student using the UNiDAYS system.

Visit the Apple Education Store UK (opens in new tab)

In the US, you can simply browse the models and see all prices, and you generally don't need to show any proof of being a student when buying.

Visit the Apple Education Store US (opens in new tab)

In Australia, it's the same as the US – you can just browse all the prices.

Visit the Apple Education Store Australia (opens in new tab)

Matthew Bolton
Matthew Bolton

Matt is T3's former AV and Smart Home Editor (UK), master of all things audiovisual, overseeing our TV, speakers and headphones coverage. He also covered smart home products and large appliances, as well as our toys and games articles. He's can explain both what Dolby Vision IQ is and why the Lego you're building doesn't fit together the way the instructions say, so is truly invaluable. Matt has worked for tech publications for over 10 years, in print and online, including running T3's print magazine and launching its most recent redesign. He's also contributed to a huge number of tech and gaming titles over the years. Say hello if you see him roaming the halls at CES, IFA or Toy Fair. Matt now works for our sister title TechRadar.